blue infrastructure a design opportunity

There is plenty of sound advice and exemplary design available to guide designers and developers when integrating sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) and make this an opportunity to add to the character of a place.Integration of SuDS

The excellent diagram (above) from Planning for SuDS – making it happen published by CIRA in 2010 shows the range of ways SuDS can be integrated in the more formal or urban edges of a scheme by being integrated in paving, tree pits, rain gardens and roofs or running alongside streets in rills, bioretention strips or infiltration trenches. It shows how SuDS can provide contrasting spaces such as filter strips, naturalised swales, wildlife and wetland areas. Advice about the appropriate assembly of components is continued in more detail in the document with illustrations of the best components to use for high, medium and low density development and descriptions of how to embed SuDS in Design Codes or Retrofit into existing streets and spaces.

The authors of Planning for SuDS identify the “need to embrace water management as an opportunity” and advise design teams to consider the benefits and opportunities early on. A good scheme will be compatible with the landscape and integrated with the overall design strategy providing multiple benefits, for example, drainage and public open space or car parking. As well as managing flood risk benefits could include improved; water quality, amenity and biodiversity, water resources and recreation and education for communities. The benefits to developers in integrating SuDS are the reduction of maintenance costs associated with heavily engineered drainage and a possible increase the value of nearby homes.

Some important design principles are that sustainable urban drainage (SUDS) should mimic natural drainage, control water at its source and use sequence of components to manage flows of water and improve water quality. They note that: SUDS mimic natural drainage patterns by:

  • storing runoff and releasing it slowly (attenuation)
  • allowing water to soak into the ground (infiltration)
  • filtering out pollutants
  • allowing sediments to settle out by controlling the flow of the water
  • creating attractive environments for people and wildlife.

Focusing on SUDS strategies for urban design projects the most illuminating case studies featuring in this and other more recent guidance are:

  • Upton, Northamptonshire – which set out a design code for two street types integrating SUDS, one with SUDS at the centre and another with SUDS to one side with a footpath to the inside.
  • Cambourne Pool Redruth Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) – where a design approach has been developed across an area with the strategic integration of swales or leats to open up new areas for development.
  • Malmo, Sweden and Reiselfeld, Feiburg, Germany are widely cited as good examples because of the bold way they integrate SuDS bringing water and wildlife features close to homes. The indefatigable Essex County Council have produced a design guide illustrated by these examples from Malmo and Reiselfeld and expanding on the advice in ‘making it happen’ with Essex focused case studies.

Dickie, S, McKay, G, Ions, L, Shaffer, P –  Planning for SuDS – making it happen, CIRIA, 2010 http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/sites/default/files/C687%20Planning%20for%20suds.pdf.pdf

Upton Design Codes V2, Northampton Borough Council, 2005

http://www.northampton.gov.uk/site/scripts/download_info.php?downloadID=332

Nicholls, D, Cornwall County Council – Surface Water Drainage and Green Infrastructure

Sustainable Drainage Systems, Essex County Council, 2014

https://www.essex.gov.uk/Environment%20Planning/Environment/local-environment/flooding/View-It/Documents/suds_design_guide.pdf

See also ongoing archive of case studies at Susdrain:

http://www.susdrain.org/case-studies/


 

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integrating space for play in housing leads to more social interaction

Valuable evidence based research about the sociability of current housing design.

In advance of publishing a full report later in 2016 Dinah Borat of ZCD Architects has published a summary of research into the sociability of stress and public spaces in housing design in the Architects Journal. This offers findings from studies of six 20th Century Estates in Hackney and a further 10 recent schemes across England. The study recorded activity in the streets and public spaces of housing developments over twenty-four hours over two days. This used Jan Gehl’s categories of activity; necessary, optional and social – also recording the gender and age of people and the numbers talking or playing together at any time.

The research starts to identify how the streets and public spaces provided, function in terms of their accessibility and describes their success in supporting activity to understand how well ‘social activity, children’s independent activity and their extended use of space’ is supported. The research identifies the need for supervised spaces near the home as well as the ability for older children to move about safely and independently across a ‘network of interconnected spaces around the development’. Which is evidence for my more empirical observations in an earlier blog ‘Playing Out’.

3017666_GREENSPACES-LIMETREESQUAREThe research found play to be the dominant outdoor activity and discovered that when there was room for this other activities followed with more sociability occurring between adults as well. The full report will probably tell us more – but the plan diagrams (see above) recording accessibility seem to suggest that the position of the street or space in the layout is important as well as the types of street and range of spatial types used – with developments that are more generic supporting less social opportunity.

The Architects Journal; Designing Green Spaces that people want to use, Dinah Borat – AJ 21.04.16 VOL 243/ISSUE 10

http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/buildings/designing-green-spaces-that-people-want-to-use/10005102.fullarticle

Research funded by; The Homes and Communities Agency, NHBC, ZCD Architects, University of East London, Levitt Bernstein and the Hargrave Foundation.

See also:

Housing as if people mattered, Clare Cooper Marcus and Wendy Sarkissian, 1986

Child’s Play – Rob Wheyway and Alison Millward, 1997.


 

how to make the most of trees and wider contemporary green infrastructure solutions

TDAG

It might seem obvious to say that: “having trees in development should be the normal and expected thing to happen” but too often a lack of commitment on behalf of whole delivery teams means that trees are lost from proposals one by one. Its good to see eight local authorities grasp the nettle and be proactive about integrated approaches to including trees in street design. The 8Cs (Derby and Derbyshire, Leicester and Leicestershire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and more recently Blackpool Council and Cheshire East) are planning to deliver a new design guide that builds on MfS and MfS2.

With the support of the Tree Design Action Group (TDAG) they held a workshop earlier this year to look at how the guide could promote and support the integration of trees and wider contemporary green infrastructure solutions. They explored the key principles of: collaborative design, priortizing walking and cycling, supporting innovation and delivering welcoming, inclusive, resilient and safe places. To make sure including street trees in projects does become the norm 8Cs and TDAG recommended that:

  • Design choices for trees should be context sensitive, identifying the right tree species,
  • When weighing up benefits value the whole life benefit of the tree. Trees have immediate and wider value. Can use i-tree to assess.
  • Realise the opportunity to impact on air quality, reduce flooding, sequester carbon and prevent overheating in urban areas.
  • Place trees intelligently and consider integration with footways and carriageway, parking and vehicle speed management, utilities and microclimates.
  • Technically – seek space efficient integration with utilities, protect trees, ensure adequately nourished and watered and minimize maintenance.
  • Take a joined up approaches when advising developers.

The knowledge base to support integrated approaches is developing internationally with some excellent advice being published by TDAG. Their publication: Trees in Hard Landscapes, A Guide for Delivery, TDAG 2014 includes 30 Case Studies from the UK, Europe, the USA and Canada and some excellent diagrams and sections offering technical design solutions and notes on appropriate species selection.

http://www.tdag.org.uk


 

 

playing out – space for children in residential masterplans

The 400m-radius circle that connotes pedestrian accessibility gathers significance if you have a small baby in a pushchair and no access to a car or if you are walking small children to school. You start to appreciate the scale of a neighbourhood very vividly. If in your radius as well as a nursery and school there is a small shop and better still a café and maybe a park or somewhere to sit out then there will be room for parents and babies and small children to congregate. This is where communities which span decades start to take shape and designers should think of these spaces in sequence with one another.

As children become mobile then play spaces become a fixation, plays spaces and swimming pools (and later forests or woods). The scale of neighbourhood activity grows as children do. If your children are happily amused you know they are spending their time well then the chances are you’ll be amused too. A recent review of the evidence of the benefits of free play reported that playing has a wide range of benefits for children including; cognitive development, physical health and emotional wellbeing, social development and resilience. The availability of play space points to wider benefits for families also: ‘Parents associate playing in playgrounds with family well-being, and those who live near playgrounds and visit often report higher levels of family well-being’. (1.)

From around 5-10yrs old children want assert their independence and play out with friends somewhere near to home. For a few months the boundaries of home are stretched into the street and there are difficult decisions to be negotiated. It is helpful initially if there is space apart that is still near enough to be supervised. So designers need to consider how to provide a range of incidental play spaces as part of the landscape of any new neigbourhood, such as well functioning home zones and slivers or margins of spaces that can be safely purloined. The Playing Out (2.) campaign grew out of a resident led project in Bristol that aims to encourage and support street play across the UK and enable every child the freedom to; ‘play actively and independently in front of or near their own home’. Playing Out is also supported by Play England.

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Footbridge to the Parish Field, Juliet Bidgood – Photo: Kevin Nicholson

 

On foot links to bigger and wilder spaces are important for children as they gain independence. By 10 they may want to go further afield to play or go on an errand to the shops to experience the wider world for themselves. Even better a day out in the woods with backpacks. A study for Save the Children found that children enjoyed spaces that might not be considered by design teams: “The ‘wild’ areas, which included the fields, woods, ruins and the local bing (an old coal slag heap), were highly valued by the young people and were places where they went climbing trees, biking and to generally socialise and play.”(3.)

Finding opportunities for these three scales of activity for parents and children: of the street, the neighbourhood and connection to wild spaces beyond is a good test of a residential or mixed-use masterplan. It is another way of asking the Building for Life question two: “Does the development provide (or is it close to) community facilities, such as shops, schools, workplaces, parks, play areas, pubs or cafes?”

  1. The Play Return: A review of the wider impact of play initiatives, Tim Gill for the Children’s Play Policy Forum, 2014 – www.rethinkingchildhood.com
  1. http://playingout.net/ – http://www.playengland.org.uk/our-work/projects/street-play.aspx
  2. Outsiders, Children and Young People and Their Use of Public Space, Susan Elsley, 2004